Suggestions re September Summit and UN Reform to NGLS

1. Human Rights:

We strongly support the need to strengthen the working of the Commission on Human Rights. In recent years it is seen by many as a refuge for violators of human rights.
We agree with the suggestion of the Secretary General that the Commission become a Council, that it be a standing body with fewer members, elected by the General Assembly.

Civil Society has enjoyed relative ease of access to the Commission in Geneva. This is much appreciated. We are aware that States as well as individuals commit abuses against human rights. Because of this we believe it is essential that Civil Society has access to the functioning of the UN human rights body and is able to be present to report on abuses and to advocate for victims.

As NGOs we would want an assurance that we would continue to have access to the workings of the Human Rights Council, if it becomes answerable to the General
Assembly and not to ECOSOC.

2. Security, Development and the MDGs:

We endorse the statement of the Secretary General that there can be no security without development, no development without security, and neither of these is possible without human rights.

The agenda of the UN, and its reform, must reflect the needs of all member States. Attention to the MDGS has been strongly deflected by the focus on security and terrorism by some states as well as the vastly increased expenditure on arms and war in Iraq.

Without sacrificing the need for security, we call for pro-poor, people-centred development to be brought back to the centre of UN considerations. Security and development are decoupled at out peril.

3. Millennium + 5 Review:

The Millennium Summit of 2000 was a powerful symbolic event that issued in the development of the Millennium Development Goals. Originally the Summit of 2005 was originally to be a 5 year review of the progress made in implementing this bold vision for dealing with extreme poverty in the world.

We are concerned that the coming September Summit may focus too narrowly on the UN reform and, even more narrowly, on reform of the Security Council. This would be to the grave detriment of all, especially those in the developing world.

We believe that Official Development Assistance (ODA) and MDG 8 ‘to develop a global partnership for development’ are not matters of charity. They are matters of justice. Such justice is the best recipe for security among the nations of the world. We call upon developed member States to remember MDG number 8 and the Monterrey Consensus. We applaud those countries that are presently contributing the agreed level of .07% of the GNI to ODA. We are encouraged by those countries that have made firm, time-bound commitments to move towards reaching the agreed level of ODA. We urge those countries still to take action, to honour their commitment made in Monterrey.

ODA must not be confused with other things such as emergency given during the recent Tsunami.

We recognise a mutual interdependence of ODA, debt forgiveness for the poorest countries, the removal of harmful subsidies affecting fair trade. We believe that only a sharp increase in levels of ODA, along with concomitant increases in good governance and transparency in all countries, can reverse the widening rift between rich and poor countries and make the achieving of the MDGs really possible.

4. Reform of the UN System:

We are generally supportive of the Secretary General’s Report “In Larger Freedom”. It offers concrete suggestions to strengthen the UN system as a whole.

However we feel that the report makes many demands, and rightly, on developing countries concerning accountability, transparency, good governance etc. Little is required of developed countries. We support the Secretary General in his assessment that development aid must be doubled by 2009. We think that 20I5 is too late for the increase to .07%.

Ecosoc remains the hidden partner within the report. There is talk of strengthening and reforming the Security Council and of creating a Human Rights Council. The Economic and Social Council, where the lion’s share of the work of the UN agenda is done, is not strengthened. In the attempt to make the Secretariate leaner and more adapted to the present needs of the UN, it is important that it is resourced with sufficient analytical, research and coordinating skills in order to fulfil the tasks given to it.

A fear we have is that the streamlining of the UN may be done at the expense of the number and quality of both technical and political expertise.

5. The place of Civil Society:

As part of the roadmap for the reform and strengthening of the UN, the Secretary General established not one but two Panels of Eminent Persons. The panel chaired by President Cardoso issued a report with recommendations on how to enhance the relationship of the UN with civil society.

There is one mention of civil society and NGOs in the report ‘In Larger Freedom’ It would appear that the Cardoso report has sunk without trace. This is a cause of dismay. Behind the increasing rhetoric of the importance to the UN of civil society, there appears, in practice, to be a narrowing of opportunities for NGOs to be given access and to exercise the ‘partnership’ with members states that is proclaimed as a goal. When it comes to the implementation of the decisions made at the Summit, member states will expect Civil society to play an active role in working and using our considerable worldwide resources to implement the outcomes of the Summit and the Millennium Development Goals. You cannot expect civil society to come help with implementation if they are not able to participate in the process. There is real disquiet within the NGO community about such a possibility.

Experience from other UN international conferences has shown that it is possible to enable real rather than token participation of NGOs within the constraints of the numbers and security regulations for UN buildings.

Thank you for the chance to express our concerns as well as our hopes.

Deirdre Mullan rsm - Sisters of Mercy

Kevin Dance - Passionists International.

Joseph Foley - International Public Policy Institute and Congregation of the Mission